Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Helping A Writer’s Muddled Mind - Part 1

Is anyone else having trouble getting moving on writing projects this New Year? Since I slowed down for the holidays, I can’t seem to get moving again. I keep trying, but I just can’t seem to even make myself do what needs to be done. (Tweet it!)

Well wait a minute maybe that’s not quite true. When I stop and think about it, I realize I have been doing a lot. But then I’ve also been piddling around a lot.

I thought maybe I’d stop and evaluate what’s going on and why. As with anything, the first step to solving a problems is to accurately identify what the problem is. (Tweet it!)

When I did stop and evaluate, I could see that I have been working on various projects — and making significant headway in them. I can also see some of the snags that have been holding me up.

Surprisingly to me, I found six areas that have been muddling my mind and my progress. I have so many thoughts and ideas about these six that it’s too much for one blog post! We’ll cover three causes of muddle in a writer’s mind this month and another three in the March 1 post.

1. Not Enough Ideas

I know one reason why I’ve been stymied since the first of the year. I don’t have enough ideas. More specifically, I don’t have enough ideas for this blog. I have some ideas stashed, but when I reviewed them, I went down the entire list saying, “No. No. No. Not that one. Nope…” 

Why? For one thing, not many of the ideas excited me. They were ideas brainstormed during a past time when I was dry on ideas. I’ve used the ideas that excited me, leaving only the ideas that now feel old or overdone.

The ideas that might excite me I wasn’t sure would excite you. I mean, just because I’m into screenwriting right now and have a ton to say about that doesn’t mean that’s what the audience of this blog wants. Through my evaluation I got to thinking this blog started out being for writers of magazine articles and books, and the most popular blog posts are the ones where I’m sharing something I’ve learned with people who want or need to know that information. I’m not sure screenwriting topics fit in to that.

So that left me without a great idea for this month’s blog post and I just wasn’t coming up with something new to share. I mean, I’ve already shared a lot of what I know that I can think of which others might want to know or want help with. What else can I share? I’m dry on ideas. (Right now are you screaming at your screen what you need and wish I would blog about? Let me know in a comment!)

The end of January was looming and I didn’t have a single idea that excited me for this February 1 post. So I asked for help. 

I had the privilege of chatting with some writer friends and I told them my problem. Someone suggested that I write about how to get new ideas. I asked her if she realized she was asking me to write about the very thing I was struggling with and that I had no solutions for?! She said sometimes others are struggling with the same things we are and how we solve it can help them. Ah well. She had a point. So here I am, trying to figure it out and hoping I’m helping you as well as myself.

This morning I set a timer for an hour and am typing as fast as I can on this blog post. Whaddya know? It’s coming. My timer just went off and I’ve got a bunch of notes written. I just reset the timer for another hour. (Tweet it!)

And now guess what? I’ve found so much to write about I have enough for two posts!

If you’re still stuck, check out this article. It’s for screenwriters, but it might help spark something no matter what you’re working on: “5 Tips to Turn Your Script Into a High Concept Idea.” 

2. Too Many Ideas

Ironically, another dilemma that muddles my writer’s mind is the exact opposite of #1 above. When I start listing all the projects I would like to write, it can be overwhelming. 

I have a large white-board where, at the beginning of the year, I list my goals including the projects I want to write. I don’t always get them all done. But the past few years I’ve done pretty well at picking a few to accomplish that year and getting them completed — written, polished, submitted somewhere.

But I have to choose which ones I will do. I can’t do them all. I have too many ideas. So I pick one or two major projects and get to work on them. (Tweet it!)

This also means there are many projects I cannot work on. I have projects sitting in the wings waiting for my attention. It’s hard to let them sit there. Some of them really excite me. But it’s not their turn yet. (Tweet it!)

Sometimes it is best to let them sit. One of my projects I started writing back in 1999. I still believe in that project. And I still believe it was good then, even though some things happened at the time that put it on the shelf. But now, because I’m also a screenwriter now, I can envision this project on the big or small screen (movie or TV). I couldn’t have even dreamed that possibility back in 1999. 

Furthermore, the world has changed. This project will be intensely more meaningful now — with parts of it amazingly prophetic, if I may say so, given things happening in the world now. The time for this project is coming. It’s getting closer all the time. And I am far more prepared to make it great than I was seventeen years ago.

I’m still not ready to re-write it and complete it, but I can see it on the horizon! It’s moving closer. And I’m excited!

But I need to let it sit for a while longer, because if I pull it down off the shelf now when I already have so many projects working, it will just add to the muddle in my mind.
Make a plan. Then work your plan.

A Note About Brainstorming

Interestingly, I think brainstorming can create problems instead of fixing them. (Tweet it!)

I think writers love to brainstorm new ideas. It’s fun! Then some of those ideas rise to the top as really good ideas and we can’t wait to work on them. But if we brainstorm too often or too much, it can be a procrastination tool. Brainstorming can be the fun thing we do instead of working the projects we already have that need to be finished.

Brainstorming more ideas can add to the #2 problem we: Too many ideas or projects which can muddle the mind.

Are you using the fun work of brainstorming more ideas and projects to avoid doing the hard work of finishing the project you have before you? I have this Bible verse printed out and tacked on my wall in my office:
“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” 2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV

3. Distractions

I’ll admit it. I’m a news and political junkie. It’s not just that I like to be informed, although I do. Staying informed on what’s going on in the world also informs my writing. I write on current events whether I’m blogging on Bible prophecy in the news or am writing my fiction. 

With all that’s been going on the past few months with the U.S. presidential election, with all that’s going on now that we have a new president, and honestly with all that’s been going on the past year with the campaign…and even years before that with our former president and his decisions matched with other world events… I want to listen in and stay up on it all. I often have the radio on in the background and I’m listening to talk radio and news.

Eh-hem. We cannot concentrate on two things at once.  Yes, I know “multi-tasking” is big and many people think they are good at doing two things at once, but our minds cannot concentrate on two things at the same time. (Tweet it!We can do mindless work with our hands (filing for example). But we cannot think on two things at the same time, like listening to a conversation in the background and thinking on a writing project in front of us. Nope. Doesn’t work. 

It may be obvious to you, but I had to be reminded that I’m not getting much done when I have talk that I want to listen to going on in the background. Either I’m listening to it or I’m not writing anything because I’m distracted by what I might be missing.

Distractions muddle our minds. The obvious solution? Turn it off. Whether your favorite distraction is the same as mine or Facebook, other social media, surfing the web, music, or other, turn it off and see if your muddled mind doesn’t focus in.

But then there’s the enjoying life factor. We do these “distractions” because we enjoy them and we don’t want to miss out. It’s one of the reasons we work from home as a writer, so we can do these things! Okay. Find a reasonable compromise. Schedule when you go online, respond to Facebook, do social media, listen to the radio, email, or do anything online, etc. Make sure it’s not during your most creative time. Protect that time and do your creative work — and only your creative work — then.

This article may help: “May I Have Another Cup of Creativity, Please?” 

Control the time you put into those things that distract you and control the time you devote to your writing project. You’re in the driver’s seat. (Tweet it!)

I hope that help you get started with your writing again. It has me. Come back next month and we’ll talk about three more things I’ve identified which have had my writer’s mind so muddled that I’m having trouble getting my work done. These three are: 

  • Things I Don’t Want to Do (But Need to Do)
  • Things I Don’t Know How to Do (But Must Do), and 
  • A Writer’s Worries

Until next month, I hope your writer’s mind gets un-muddled and you get lots done.